There was once a chairlift that connected Charlottes Pass to the Thredbo Valley. I’m not kidding, there was.
It seems that this part of our history has largely been forgotten as many people I have spoken to have never heard of the chair. Indeed, I have only become aware of this feat of our early ski industry in the past two years.
The chair was constructed between 1963 and 1964 and ran from Charlotte Pass village past Mt Stilwell, across Wrights Creek and then down the Twin Valleys to the Alpine Way.
The chair operated for only one year. High winds caused operational difficulties, especially in the event of emergencies. Apparently, the chair was dismantled and sold to Jamberoo Recreation Park on the NSW south coast.
The Chairlift was advertised as the longest chairlift in the world but that claim was not widely accepted, since it was actually two chairs which both terminated at the central restaurant. The lift had 50 towers, 8 stations and stretched over 5.5km.
Here are some pics I dug up on from the NLA, wikiski and ozbc.
After removing the towers and chairs, the stations at either end of the chair, and also the mid station remained. The legend goes that the mid station was used as target practice by the Australian Defence Force. The Twin Valleys station on the Alpine Way is now owned by the NSW NPWS. The Charlotte Pass station is used as staff housing.
I was lucky enough to make it out to the remains of the mid station last winter. The two bullwheels remain as well as an old motor. The location is very isolated and exposed and must have been a nightmare to manage during difficult conditions.
Over summer I have been keen to hike out to the mid station ruins and have a look.
Firstly, in the interest of completeness, here are some photos of the Twin Valleys and Charlotte Pass stations as they now exist.
Twin Valleys station, used as a ranger station now largely vacant
Charlotte Pass station, used for staff accom
On a sunny, autumn day we trekked out to the mid station ruins. Early autumn snowdrifts from a storm the previous week were hanging around creating a beautiful autumn landscape.
To get there you must first walk to Mt Stilwell from the Charlotte Pass turning circle. Once reaching the saddle between Mt Stilwell and little Stilwell, you follow the snow poles across Wrights Creek. Then look right, to the south, at a large rocky outcrop and you should see it.
Follow the poles…
Crossing Wrights Creek
And then you get there, the ruins of the Charlotte Pass to Thredbo chair
Eye to the Thredbo Valley beyond
Beautiful vistas to take in
Small survival hut down in the Twin Valleys
To get back to Charlotte Pass you must again follow the snow poles. The last section before you hit the car park you come across another relic, the ruins of one of Australia’s first ski tows.
Here you end up back at the hoards of tourists and hikers at the turning circle car park.
It is all a bit surreal.
*Big thanks to the work and photos of others in creating this post, specifically the WikiSki contributors and OzBC.